Three of the DFL candidates running for governor are not concerned about who party delegates endorse this weekend at their state convention in Duluth. Mark Dayton, Matt Entenza and Susan Gaertner don't plan to abide by the party endorsement.
Instead they set their sights on the August 10th primary, when they'll face the DFL endorsed candidate in a four-way nomination fight.
Since DFL candidate Matt Entenza started his campaign a year ago, he has courted DFL delegates with his message of making Minnesota a leader in clean energy, education and job creation. But he also made it clear that he would only abide by the party endorsement if all of the other candidates did the same.
"It's been 40 years since an endorsed candidate has won an open seat. And we think that when we get our message out there about jobs and education that that's going to win a primary," said Entenza.
Entenza is a former state legislator from St. Paul. He was a candidate for attorney general four years ago, but withdrew from the race amid questions about his hiring of a firm to investigate then-attorney general and fellow Democrat Mike Hatch, who was running for governor at the time. Entenza says only reporters still ask him about 2006.
Questions about the past are also following Mark Dayton, who served just one term in the U.S. Senate. He did not seek re-election four years ago in 2006, at the time said he didn't think he was the best candidate.
Dayton also raised eyebrows in 2004 when he temporarily closed his Washington office due to concern about a possible terrorist attack. Dayton said he's not looking back and he's running on his record of public service.
"You know, I've been in public service in Minnesota for 35 years and I have plenty of detractors and they can come up with things that they can view with hindsight or whatever. But I'm going to run on strengths and what I've offered this state and my commitment to public service," Dayton said.
Dayton said he's running in the primary because he wants DFL voters, not just delegates, to decide the nomination.
The heir to the Dayton's Department Store fortune has been telling those voters that he wants to "tax the rich" to help solve a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.
He's also telling them that he's on a much tighter campaign budget than 10 years ago when he spent $12 million of his own money on his Senate campaign.
Matt Entenza, whose wife Lois Quam was an executive at UnitedHealth Group, is also sitting on extensive financial resources.
It's a factor not lost on the third DFL primary candidate. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner said she'll have far less to spend than any of her opponents.
Gaertner was originally seeking the DFL endorsement, but she said her nonpartisan and non-legislative background worked against her.
"The endorsement process tends to be dominated by the most left wing of the party, in much the same way that I think the Republican endorsement seems to be dominated by the right wing of the party," Gaertner said. "And what you end up with is a candidate that is not necessarily electable by that great middle that most people find themselves in."
DFL STANDS BY ENDORSEMENT PROCESS
Party leaders disagree. State DFL Chairman Brian Melendez said the endorsed candidate will emerge from the convention with the full support of the statewide party. Melendez says history shows that support matters.
"At least during the time that I've been chair of the party, over 99 percent of endorsed candidates have won their primary. So, we intend to defend the endorsement in the party," Melendez said. "It's nice that other people want to run. But I'm sorry, they're not going to win the primary. They would do better to realize that sooner rather than later.
Despite their primary plans, Dayton, Entenza and Gaertner all say they will spend some time at the DFL convention. Entenza is the only one of the three who's letting his name be placed in nomination.